Reviewby Theron Martin,
Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?
The affair on the 18th floor is behind Bell and crew, but few outside of the Guild know about it due to a gag order. That doesn't prevent Bell from getting some fresh attention, however. Apollo, a god known for his obsessive interest in beautiful things, has set his sights on Bell, and he is absolutely willing to resort to trickery and even a Guild war in order to gain possession of Bell for himself. What he really wants is a War Game, which allows the victor god to make an unbounded demand on the loser without penalty or censor, and many other gods are eager for the spectacle. Even though the overwhelmingly larger Apollo Familia would have a huge edge, it's a prospect that Hestia may not be able to avoid. Thankfully, the Hestia Familia has acquired a lot of capable allies who can help, among them the newly-minted Level 2 Welf. But Lily might not be one of them, since her own problems with the Soma Familia are inconveniently surfacing at the same time.
The 6th DanMachi novel marks the point where the main storyline fully extends beyond the 2015 anime adaptation, picking up just a couple of days after the 5th novel and anime both leave off. For those who loved the anime version but don't want to traipse through the rehashes of the first five novels, this is your jumping-on point for continuing the story. While you might miss a few small details that were elucidated on in the earlier novels, nothing that got cut from the anime adaption is crucial to understanding what's going on here. (That said, I do recommend reading the “Quest x Quest” short story included in the 4th novel, as it clarifies why Miach Familia – Nahza in particular – gets so heavy involved in certain events in this story.)
For those who have followed the anime version, one significant discrepancy crops up almost immediately: the anime version shows a big celebration at the Benevolent Mistress in its next-to-last scene, where Bell's exploits were being openly discussed, but here the celebration is a more private one in a different tavern because of the Guild-imposed gag order. (They are concerned about creating a panic if details about the unusual floor boss's appearance got out.) From there, the content is all new. The consequences of Hestia and Hermes venturing into the dungeon themselves are dealt with, as well as other fallout such as how Ryu/Lyu and Asfi got the lion's share of the excelia for the floor boss battle instead of Bell, since they were directly engaged with it for the longest time. One relatively early scene between Bell and Hermes also brings out a wealth of details about the Zeus and Hera Familias, which were once the city's strongest but no longer exist in Orario. How and why that came to pass suggests a long-term subplot for the series, but more immediately, it puts greater context on Hermes's curious comments in the immediate wake of the battle on the 18th floor. The timing of all of this is also quite suspicious, adding to already established speculation that Zeus was either Bell's blood grandfather or posing as such to raise the child of his two strongest Familia members. How Uranus fits into all of this is also implied, though at a much later point.
Those are just some of the fun details, but the core of the two-pronged plot is Apollo's efforts to take Bell away from Hestia and Lilly's reckoning with the Familia that she has been trying to leave. Although the former has the predominant story thrust, the latter is still an important side branch that eventually feeds back into the Apollo storyline. Both are meaty and well-told, with the latter providing a lot of insight into how Soma Familia operates and the former offering a thrilling running battle, an impressive staged battle, and a lot of tension as both reader and participant alike try to figure out how Hestia Familia can triumph over such overwhelming odds. Lots of familiar names show up and do cool things; virtually every named character to date in Orario has at minimum a cameo appearance. Lots of lessons learned in previous novels are acted upon, and lots of new lessons are learned and implemented too, with the ultimate outcome hinging on lessons that some have not learned. The identity of one person who bets on Bell is also particularly interesting.
All of this makes for a fun and fairly intense read, especially from the moment that the running battle commences. Author Fujino Omori showed with the first volume that he could manage a running battle, and this one is even smoother despite being on a grander scale. Omori still has an annoying tendency to write dialogue and then semi-redundantly describe its context afterwards, but this may be a general light novel writing quirk to blame. Overall though, the quality of his writing has improved some, making this the best-written novel to date.
Yen Press's release of the novel mostly conforms to the established standards for the franchise, with the quad-fold glossy page at the front featuring Hestia and Bell on one side and an extra-racy rendition of Mikoto (Takemizuchi's ace) on the other side. The front cover is presumably supposed to depict Bell and Aiz during one scene in the novel, though her hair comes off as light green in that picture instead of blond. A handful of pictures are scattered throughout (though fewer than normal and none in the last half), and it wraps with a two-page profile of /Status for Bell and his equipment, followed by a two-page afterword by Omori. A new feature this time around is two pages of character summaries at the beginning, perhaps done in anticipation of people picking up the novels from where the anime ends.
Overall, the first post-anime novel is an absolute treat for fans of the franchise. It is the series' best entry so far from both technical and storytelling standpoints, and its ending is very satisfying. It does spark questions about what direction the story will go next, as the circumstances that the franchise has been built on to date have now been substantially altered. This content definitely needs to be animated at some point. The story is much too expansive for the upcoming OVA episode to cover (my bet on that is the “Quest x Quest” story instead), but it would be perfect for a movie adaptation.
Overall : A-
Story : A-
Art : C+
+ Plenty of thrilling action, nearly all established characters appear and get to do something cool, very satisfying conclusion
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